An old-fashioned pocket watch

There’s no predicting an earthquake

When will the next major earthquake hit? No one knows.

When will the next major earthquake hit? No one knows.

Hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, even tsunamis all give us advanced warning, but science still hasn’t figured out how to predict an earthquake more than a minute or so ahead. That puts the preparation pressure on. Time could be running out… we just don’t know.

The Rule of 3’s

Yes, there are tons of actions you can take before, during and after an earthquake, but to concentrate on the most important ones, let’s assign three recommended actions for each phase.

3 Things: Before the Earthquake Begins

  1. Prepare a Flee Bag to help you survive the first few days in case your home is badly damaged.
  2. Stockpile bottled water. Experts estimate that you should have 1 gallon per person (and per pet) per day for 14 days. Yes, that’s a lot of water to find storage space for… 14 gallons for each person and pet in your household. You will use the water not only for drinking, but also for cooking and sanitation.
  3. Designate an out-of-area friend or family member who will be the person you contact to communicate your condition following a major disaster. Everyone in your circle should have this person’s name and number to contact so they can act as a central clearinghouse for information about everyone’s condition.

3 Things: Under Your Bed

  1. Hard-soled shoes. Stepping on broken glass is one of the most common injuries following a quake. If you are in bed when the quake happens, you will have bare feet. You need to have shoes within reach to avoid this hazard.
  2. Hard-hat or bicycle helmet to protect your head. Falling debris is the second most common cause of injury during and after an earthquake. Head gear will help protect you.
  3. Heavy work gloves, preferably with leather palms. You may need to clear away some of the fallen debris that you hopefully dodged. Gloves will help preserve your hands.

You might want to keep your Flee Bag under your bed as well, if there is room. The trunk of your car, if you have one, is also a great place to store it.

3 Things: During the Earthquake


  1. Drop to the ground.
  2. Cover your head and neck.
  3. Hold on to whatever protection you have, e.g. a table leg or pillow.


  1. (Don’t) Panic. Panic never improves any situation.
  2. (Don’t) Run outside. In fact, don’t run anywhere! Stay put.
  3. (Don’t) Take cover in a doorway. That piece of advice is outdated. Forget that well-known myth. Doorways have their own dangers, such as slamming doors. Remember, drop, cover and hold; you can’t do that in a doorway.

3 Things: Once the Ground Stops Moving

  1. Check on the condition of people and pets around you. Is anyone injured?
  2. Shut off any utilities* that have been damaged by the quake.
  3. Check in with your (previously designated) out-of-area contact to let them know your condition and location. Cell phones are unlikely to work. Texting will be your best bet.

* Natural gas is the most critical utility to check. If you hearing hissing, or smell the tell-tale odor of “rotten eggs”, shut the gas off immediately. And don’t try to turn it back on yourself – that requires a professional.

*Electricity only needs to be shut down if you see sparks or smell burning wires.

*Underground water pipes will brake during a major earthquake, so there will be no running water, which is why you stockpiled the bottled water. Sewer pipes will break, too, so don’t flush the toilets. Flushing will bring the contaminated water back up, rather than flushing it away.

Coming full circle, you can now grab your Flee Bag if you need to evacuate your home. If that is the case, go to the nearest emergency Communication Hub for more information about how the event has affected your community.

What? You don’t know what a Communication Hub is, or where the nearest one is located?  Click here to see a map of Communication Hubs in West Seattle.

Questions? You know where to find me. Click here to schedule a 20-minute free phone consultation.